- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins - US (23 June 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062286722
- ISBN-13: 978-0062286727
- Product Dimensions: 3.6 x 17.3 x 22.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 540 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
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Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel Hardcover – 23 Jun 2014
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"Now [Tam Lin] emerges again, artfully recreated by debut novelist Katherine Harbour."--Barnes and Noble Picks for June (James Killen)
"Fantasy fans will find much to savor in Harbour's delicate, myth-conscious prose."--Publishers Weekly
"Thorn Jack is highly recommended, particularly for those who like their fairy tales dark, enthralling, and a wee bit disturbing."--Fresh Fiction
"An engaging and entertaining story, offering mystery, frights, young romance, and a chance to brush up on your mythology."--FantasyBookCritic.com
From the Back Cover
A spectacular, modern retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad of Tam Lin—a beguiling fusion of love, fantasy, and myth vividly imagined and steeped in gothic atmosphere
Their creed is "Mischief, Malevolence, and Mayhem."
Serafina Sullivan, named for angels and a brave Irish prince, is haunted by dreams of her older sister, Lily Rose, a sprite, ethereal beauty who unexpectedly took her own life. A year has passed since Lily's death, and now eighteen-year-old Finn and her college-professor father have moved back to Fair Hollow, her father's pretty little hometown alongside the Hudson River. Populated with socialites, hippies, and famous dramatic artists, every corner of this quaint, bohemian community holds bright possibilities—and dark enigmas, including the alluring Jack Fata, scion of the town's most powerful family.
Jack's smoldering looks and air of secrecy draw Finn into a dangerous romance . . . and plunge her into an eerie world of shadow and light ruled by the beautiful and fearsome Reiko Fata. Exciting and monstrous, the Fata family and its circle of strange, aristocratic denizens wield irresistible charm and glamorous power— a tempting and terrifying blend of good and evil, magic and mystery, that holds perilous consequences for a curious girl like Finn.
As she becomes more deeply entwined with Jack, Finn discovers that their lives and those of the ones she loves, including her best friends Christie Hart and Sylvie Whitethorn, are in peril. But an unexpected ally may help her protect them: her beloved sister, Lily Rose. Within the pages of the journal that Lily left behind are clues Finn must decipher to unlock the secret of the Fatas.
Yet the wrathful and deadly Reiko has diabolical plans of her own for Finn, as well as powerful allies. To save herself and to free her beloved Jack from the Fatas, Finn must stand up against the head of the family and her clever minions, including the vicious, frightening Caliban—a battle that will reveal shocking secrets about Lily Rose's death and about Finn herself . . .
Evocative and spellbinding, rich with legend, myth, and folklore, filled with heroes and villains, ghosts and selkies, changelings and fairies, witches and demons, Thorn Jack is a modern fairy tale and a story of true love, set in a familiar world, where nothing is as it seems.
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And "Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel" is one of the best adaptations that I have seen, bringing the story to a modern day small college town. Katherine Harbour's writing is intoxicatingly lyrical ("a voice like ashes and velvet") and she weaves a spellbinding web of romance and otherworldly fantasy. Think Holly Black by way of Neil Gaiman.
After her sister's suicide, Finn and her father move to her grandmother's old house in Fair Hollow, hoping to get a fresh start. She also begins attending HallowHeart, a local college awash in myth and folklore, and filled with fun courses like "Symbols in Body Art" (tattoos), "The Mask in Theatre" and "Scandals in Biblical History." She makes some oddball friends, a few enemies, and learns a bit about the spooky folklore that permeates Fair Hollow life -- including a prediction that she will die on All Hallow's Eve.
Then during a lakeside party, she encounters the Fata siblings, Reiko and Jack. Obviously, there is something very odd about the Fatas, and Jack quickly takes an interest in Finn. But strange things begin to happen to Finn, as she begins to discover that Reiko has a strange hold over her "brother" -- and that Finn may be the only one who can set him free, if she can triumph over dark, tricky forces.
"Thorn Jack" is a novel awash in poetry, violins, leaves, ribbons and masks. Like the old-world HallowHeart, it has a poetic, eccentric beauty that seems both modern and very old and lushly poetic -- which seems appropriate since it mingles the traditional "Tam Lin" tale with the tale of a young college freshman finding her way in a brand new city.
And Katherine Harbour spins her tale in a hauntingly lovely manner, with scenes that feel like dreams (Reiko's final clash with Finn) written in lush, lyrical prose ("The young man before him seemed sculpted from moonlight, autumn leaves, and ice"). She also peppers the story with things that she clearly loves, like poets, certain novels, folktales, Renfaire-clothes, Celtic folk-punk and even descriptions of fairy-tale-like Victorian houses.
She also grasps the faerie folk as few authors do -- the scenes with them are shifting, shadowy and clearly dangerous, flickering between the real and the dreamlike. And Reiko is pretty scary, even from her first innocuous appearance.
Finn is one of those heroines that it takes a little time to warm up to, but you end up really liking her once she settles into her groove -- she's sensible, somewhat snarky, but also bright and arty. She has just the right combination of teen awkwardness and collegiate confidence, with a tinge of heartbreak over the loss of her fragile, glass-thin sister. Her friends are like colorful glass beads accentuating her, and Jack is the "sexy mysterious bad boy" archetype without coming across as Edward-Cullen creepy. He's had his heart removed, after all -- you can't expect him to be normal.
Straddling the line between young-adult and contemporary fantasy, "Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel" is a tale of glittering fae magic, rich prose and a clever twist on a classic tale. For those who love a good faerie romance, this is a must-read.
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All that said, there are a few things that this book does so well that I'm inclined to read the next one. The first of these is the set of friendships formed by two besties adopting the new kid even before the first classes of the fall semester begin. This triad of friendships are nuanced and do more to hold the plot together than just about anything else in the whole book. The other thing that kept me reading is the charcterization of the female protagonist. When she's not repeatedly getting lost in the woods, drinking faerie wine and getting separated from her friends, our Finn is the real McCoy: a true hero. And the author absolutely nails the voice of a withdrawn teenager grieving the suicide of her only sister.
It's sad to give only three stars to such an ambitious book, and ironic that a three-star book warrants a much more thoughtful review than my four-and five-star ravings for slam dunk favorite reads. I do hope that the author will continue to write as there is potential here for truly masterful work some day.
And I suppose, at this moment, this is my favorite piece of fiction on fairies, too. The magic and atmosphere is so completely intrinsic in nature that I don't know how to describe it, but to say, it's real, it feels real to me, as someone who has studied folklore for most of my adult life.
The story is a beautiful and highly romantic retelling of Tam Lin, the ballad about mortals and fairies and love. I just adored the heroine, an ordinary girl who has lost both her mother and sister, who meets the goblin boy and is seduced by him, only she seduces him and makes him bleed. From there on out, the fairy trick is complicated and the mischief is deep. But not even death can stop this kind of love.
It's not a complicated story and the events are simple and play out slowly like the fairy dream that surrounds it. The setting becomes a character. Jack, well, he IS one dark and beautiful dream. And this time, the schoolgirl saves him. That's the pleasant ending, the good outcome.
But it all came at a high price. People do die. Hearts are broken. And one has to understand that mortals loving the dead can have consequences, terrible consequences. The living do not choose death easily. And the dead, well, they want to live again.
There are lots of literary allusions, which also function as metaphors and clues and other kinds of things. I've been reading this book off and on all day, rereading some passages and pages, marking it. Lots of beautiful passages and quotes to lift from this tale. And it is a tale, so really character is less important than story.
Side note: I have read four very good novels this year, this being one of those four. All of them have several things in common. (1) Third person narrative (2) Basically they are tales, meaning structure (3) ordinary girls who have no super powers and who are not chosen, etc. (4) Girls who find themselves in extra-ordinary circumstances and survive because they are good and smart and loyal and have a strong sense of empathy. (5) A price is paid (6) Family is important. (7) sui-generis, meaning they defy labeling.
I am going to write a detailed review for my blog at a later date.
But I love this novel and highly recommend it to everyone, 13 and up!
Holly Black has a soul sister whose words are luscious and terrible to behold. A true story teller armored with a deep knowledge of myth and legend as to keep us spellbound throughout the read. A truly rare bit of magic that. A spell I fell deeper under with each turning of the page.
This is a beautiful horror as the first book of the series Night and Nothing. A created world so explicit as to seem like the town down the road. Robust characters of flesh and not that you just know they inhabit that town one way or another. Plot and tricks and turns to keep you reading til your eyes burn. A devastatingly subtle evil gem of a tale.